In our science-oriented society, there is only one way to make the Torah relevant again: to furnish scientific proof that it knows what it is talking about. This can be done only by going back to the original Hebrew meaning of the Torah and using scientific means to explore what the Torah really said. This is what kabbalists did throughout the centuries. As we will see along the way, many of their insights we now know as science were at that time considered to be mystical. The best example is the creation of the world. This was considered the deepest of mysteries and taught only to select students. Now, we find the same insights in every modern book on astrophysics.
So let’s start:
Breshit bara Elohim – in the beginning God created. This is the accepted interpretation of the tantalizing first sentence of Genesis, and it is the way the sentence appears in all translations. Genesis? What is it this book speaks about? The creation of the world? Which world? Our planet? The solar system? The galaxy of which we are part? The universe? Is God then a little boy who takes some mud and from it creates planets and suns, skies and pies? Man has been to the moon and sent probes to the stars. We have broken the fetters that have kept us in bondage to this planet. Having seen all this, how can we accept the story of Genesis which claims that the optical illusion we call the firmament or sky is a kind of dome which divides the waters and holds the upper waters in check? How can we believe in a narrative claiming that the function of the sun, the moon and the stars is to indicate the festivals to mankind? Is the story of Genesis just a fairy tale, as most modem Torah scholars claim? Is it merely a reflection of the beliefs and superstitions of a primitive people and thus irrelevant to us modern and enlightened beings? Or maybe … maybe we just don’t understand what has been written, and following the interpretation we have come to accept as the only possible one, we try to fit the story in with our preconceived ideas. Do we dare to acknowledge a different version from that of our fathers? But on the other hand, do we really have to accept what our forefathers, who did not have the benefit of the knowledge we have at our disposal, assumed to be true? In most areas of our lives, in science and especially in physics, in medicine and in technology, we have broken with tradition. Why can’t we do it in matters of Torah interpretation, without relegating it all to the realm of myth? In the sciences we do not claim that nature is wrong; we say that we have not understood her correctly.
Why don’t we try to adopt the same attitude towards the Torah? Are these really the only two possibilities: Either accepting it totally, the way our forefathers did, or rejecting the whole story as fabulous or at best mythical? Maybe the Torah is right after all? Or maybe we are not yet ready to accept the possibility that we, these rational and enlightened people of the 21st century, do not understand everything. Could it be that there were people before us who saw things from a different angle and who understood the working of the universe at least as well as we do? Yes, they did. It is fascinating to realize, how over the centuries Torah scholars have come to conclusions very similar to the insights of modern science. And I repeat: They all insist that they found all of their knowledge and wisdom in the original Hebrew text of the Torah.
One of the most widely cited contradictions between the Torah and modern science concerns the age of the universe. Is it 5770 years, as claimed by the Hebrew calendar which is based on biblical data or 15 16 billion of years, as indicated by the data received from the Hubble telescope? Did creation take six days, as claimed by the Torah, or billions of years, as claimed by modern science?
Since in the modern Western world science has replaced religion, these contradictions have caused most modern Torah scholars to relegate the biblical account of creation into the realm of mythology.
Just as a side note concerning the discussion 5770 versus 15 billion years. The rabbis of antiquity did know very well that the universe is much older than the wording of the Torah seems to indicate. They were more tolerant and had no problems in allowing both views to exist side by side they only tried to find a deeper meaning of the scriptures, similar to what we are doing in this book. A good example is the highly regarded scholar Nechunya ben Hakana’ah who lived in the first century of our era. Nechunya used the biblical account of creation to calculate what he called the real age of the universe. And lo and behold, his results showed unequivocally that the age of the universe was not a few thousand years, as the Scriptures seem to indicate, but 15,3 billions of years, a figure very close to that which according to the modern astrophysics has passed since the Big Bang. Up to recently, the results of ben Hakana’ah were in total contradiction with the views of both, science and religion. But despite his so-called heretic ideas, Nechunya continued to be accepted by the academic institutions of his time and quoted widely. The question is: Where did Nechunya get his information from? Could it be that it was from a different source than the Torah? As said before, he lived in the 1st century of our era and there was no other source of this kind of knowledge in existence. Could it really have been embedded in the book of Genesis by an author who had access to that kind of knowledge?
Nechunya claimed that he used as a key the 42 letters long name of God contained (or embedded) in the first chapter of Genesis. However, he doesn’t give any details. Could it be that at that time these letters were widely known, knowledge lost later on? Just as a side remark: This is what kabbalah is all about. What he used, were kabbalistic methods similar to those which we find for example in writings of later kabbalists like the Ari of Zfat.
He was, however, not the only one to deal with this seeming paradox. In the first centuries of our time, there lived additional Jewish scholars who realized that the universe must be older than claimed by the Torah and who came to similar results as Nechunya; using different methods they reached almost identical results.
So far, so good, but none of these scholars elucidated the method used or the theory behind their calculation. How did they stretch six days to encompass 15 billion years? The 1500 years old Leviticus Rabba gives us a cue by claiming that the Jewish calendar consists of two parts. It refers to the following sentence in Moses’ farewell song: Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations.[x]
Nachmanides quotes the Kabbalah and says, that the first half of the sentence refers to the six days of the pre-Adamic creation, the second one to the generations which had gone by since then. The second half of the sentence can be easily comprehended: It is based on the addition of the years lived by the generations since Adam. According to the Hebrew calendar, we find ourselves in the Adamitic year 5570. This figure fits in very well with the development of human civilization: The pyramids of Egypt, the ancient culture of Sumer, the Indian Vedas and the Chinese culture all of them date back 4500 to 5500 years. Nobody can explain the fact that all of them seem to have come into being at approximately the same time and why they appeared so suddenly. When we return to the first half of the sentence, to the six days of creation, the issue is getting more complicated. The solution is to be found in Einstein’s theory of relativity. According to this theory, time is not constant, but relative. It is only the speed of light, which is constant, and not time itself. At different locations in the universe, time has got a different speed a statement which can be found in every textbook of physics. Another basis of the theory is the fact that time and space are interdependent and form a continuum. Where there is space, there is also time and vice versa.
In order to calculate the age of the universe, one has first of all to accept that the universe has got a beginning – and that was not all that simple. The Torah says very clearly in the beginning Breshit but we all know that the Torah is nothing but a myth, don’t we? In 1959, a survey was taken among leading American scientists. One of the many questions asked was, “What is your concept of the age of the universe?” Two-thirds of the scientists gave the same answer: That there was no beginning. Aristotle, who was considered to be a scientist, taught us 2400 years ago that our universe is eternal and has no beginning. And the teachings of Aristotle were considered to be beyond discussion.[xi]
And then came the year 1965. Penzias and Wilson discovered the Big Bang[xii] and proved that the universe does have a beginning. Now the biblical expression Breshit got a totally different meaning. This reminds me of the story that the Spanish scientists came unanimously to the conclusion that there exists no land to the west of Spain. The year was 1492, and as we all know now, that was exactly the year, in which Columbus discovered America.
Now, after modern science had accepted that the universe does have a beginning, we are confronted with two questions the first one being: Where did the Torah get this knowledge from? We needed a Hubble telescope, in order to come to this conclusion. And the Torah? The Scholars of antiquity were so convinced of that fact that they stipulated clearly: Anybody who does not believe that the world has a beginning is a heretic, who negates the central tenet of the religion. They claimed time and again that this knowledge was contained in the Torah. But they didn’t say where. Should we accept it, because they insisted? For the Jewish scholars, such a statement is not satisfactory – in the Jewish religion dogmas do not exist. And …. Not only does this statement appear in the Torah, it is the opening sentence. Could it be another proof that the Torah does know what it is talking about? That it is not a myth after all? That is at least, what those scholars and every Jew their time believed. That was their starting point and from there, they went deeper. And now to the second question Where did Nechunya, Nachmanides, the Zohar and other Jewish scholars at the beginning of our era and in the Middle Ages get this knowledge from? They had no sources apart from the Torah. It seems that we have another proof that the Torah is not a book about religion, but about science.
Let us repeat the first words of the Torah.
… Breshit bara Elohim: In the beginning God created.
This beginning, this creation of something out of nothing, is what the Torah calls Breshit and physicists call the Big Bang. According to modern science, it was not only matter which was brought forth by the Big Bang, but time as well. According to Einstein’s theory, something similar to time might have existed even before the Big Bang, but without matter it was immobile and could not be measured: When matter is infinitely small, time does not exist either. In other words: Nothing exists. This was already known by the kabbalists who said that before the creation of the universe nothing existed, that without matter there exists neither time nor space. One can also say: The only thing which existed was nothing, called by them Ajn. When the Big Bang brought forth matter, time also came into being. For us, matter and time appeared together. Modern physics would call it a singularity.
The same was claimed by Nachmanides (in the 13th century!) To use his words: Mishejiheije jesh, yitfos bo zman – the moment something exists (that matter is formed out of nothing)[xiii], time grabs hold of it. Maybe time has been created at the beginning or even before, but it only becomes what we consider time, when, to quote Nachmanides, it â€žgrabs hold” of matter. At that moment, it becomes mobile and measurable. As soon as matter condenses out of this substanceless substance, the biblical clock starts. This is the point the Zohar [xiv]calls the primary point (in time). This is where everything started.
Science has shown that there’s only one ‘ substanceless substance’ that can change into matter. And that is energy. Einstein’s famous equation, e= mc2 , tells us that energy can change into matter. Once it changes into matter, time grabs hold.
Did energy exist before the Big Bang? Is it identical with what the Kabbalah calls En Sof Or Light Infinite?
At that moment, everything, matter/energy and time, start dilating, all of them at the same rate which according to Einstein, is 300 000 km/sec.
Modern astrophysics has shown that since the Big Bang 16 billion years have gone by. At the same time, the universe has expanded identically. As can be seen in any book on cosmology, the relationship between time/matter near the beginning and time/matter today is a million millions. Using these figures, Schroeder calculated that while for us 16 billion years have gone by since the Big Bang, only six days had passed for somebody who was present at that time.[xv] This is the difference between looking back and looking forwards – from different locations in space/time. Days? What days? Are we here not back in the realm of mythology? Not according to the calculation of Schroeder. For him, the period described was six days but in the eyes of the beholder. In the eyes of the entity who was present at the beginning and who set everything in motion the entity called God.
Let’s listen to His words in His answer to Job:
Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding? Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who has stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the corner stone thereof â€¦ [xvi]
God, the master builder, shows us here in all details how he had proceeded.
And so the paradox resolves itself.
After the Big Bang, the universe started expanding in all directions. To quote Weinberg: Our knowledge of the expansion of the universe rests entirely on the fact that astronomers are able to measure the motion of a luminous body in direction along the line of this flight.[xvii] And here Weinberg refers to the Doppler shift in the light emitted by galaxies, as observed with modern telescopes.
According to Nachmanides who lived in the 13th century and who had no scientific sources at his disposal, it was in the briefest instant following creation that all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard, designated as the tiniest imaginable speck of matter. Everything in the universe, in heaven and on earth, was compressed into it. From the initial concentration, matter expanded and together with it the universe. During its expansion, matter had changed into everything that had existed or will ever exist.[xviii] Nachmanides claimed that this knowledge is part of a secret oral tradition, 2000 years old, which is now lost. Following this train of thought, Nachmanides also claims that creation out of nothing occurred only at the moment we call the Big Bang. This is what the Torah designs as Briah. Afterwards, it was only putting it in the right order, and this is described in the six following days and called Assiah.
The Zohar describes this process as follows: The emanation of the will of the Most High met the primary dot of manifest existence, touched it and didn’t touch it. Then this beginning called primary point dilated and built a palace of His glory. That was the beginning of our universe.[xix]
It turns out that this was known by the scholars of antiquity who insisted that these days were normal days made out of 24 hours. How could they know that the biblical day of creation is identical with our definition of a day? Maybe the Torah speaks here about clear-cut segments of time. No, said the ancients, they were normal days, but, as we have already seen, from the view of the beholder – 15 billion years before. This is very similar to what the psalm says: A thousand years in Your eyes are as a day that passes[xx]. And so it was not by chance that the Hebrew calendar counts 5700 years and six days. Could it be that creation is still proceeding? This can’t be ruled out to become a real human being mankind has still a long way to go. I repeat: Could it be that the creation as such is still evolving? That’s something many modern physicists believe[xxi].
And I ask again: Mythology or science? What did we forget? In the seventies of the last century, there appeared in the West a new fashion: to compare Western physics with Eastern mysticism.[xxii] We have seen here that there exists also a similar comparison with the Jewish mysticism, the Kabbalah, and the Torah. The main difference between modern physics and Eastern mysticism on the one hand and the kabbalah and the Torah on the other hand is the existence of a conscious God who was present at the creation and guided it.
Breshit bara Elohim: In the beginning God created.
All translations of the Torah accept the traditional interpretation of this sentence and as we have seen, this interpretation is very close to the finding of modern cosmology. But not everybody agrees with this interpretation.
According to one of the many streams of the kabbalah, the word Breshit does not mean in the beginning, but it is the name of that primordial existence which has been defined as the wisdom of God. The first thing to be created (bara) by it was Elohim. Elohim is the denomination of that aspect of God which connects the infinity – the En Sof – called by the kabbalists Mi – with our finite, manifested worlds called by them Eleh (the Hebrew words Eleh and Mi have the same consonants as the complete word Elohim)[xxiii]. Elohim is therefore not the subject, the creator, but the object, the designation of that entity which first created our universe and guarantees its continued existence. Heaven and earth were created later.
But let us stop here and ask ourselves what is meant by creation. According to most mystical traditions, God is infinity, the ever-present unchanging principle that underlies everything. Since it is infinite, there are no changes and no contrasts in the pure Godhead. The created world, however, is exactly the opposite, its main characteristic being constant change and movement. Contrast too is a characteristic of our reality. Without contrast, we would not be able to perceive anything. The best camouflage, therefore, is to blend into the environment and not move. So we see that creation means the formation of a duality – finite versus infinite, movement versus immobility, and change versus permanence. How does this, however, fit in with the statement that God is everything and everything is God and that in God everything is one? The answer is that all these seeming opposites are but different aspects of the basic unity which is God. Only our limited senses and understanding perceive them as opposites. This, however, is exactly what enables change and love. We and our reality were created exactly for this reason to allow changes and to experience love. It is exactly this changeability and imperfection which enable us to change the existing pattern and to create a new world which in contrast to the one which exists now is based not on conflict but on love and mercy in other words: on empathy.
Let us digress for a moment and go to the so-called Tree of Life of the kabbalah (see annex). We see here that the central Sephira (see annex), the highest point a human may reach and which is usually called Tiphereth, has an additional name: Rachamim. The meaning of this name is a term I just used: mercy. Interestingly enough, the root of this word is rechem meaning womb. Who has got more mercy than a mother? This Sephirah, however, is also a connecting point between the upper and lower worlds. In other words: The only way to reach the highest spheres is thus through love and mercy. This Sephirah, however, connects the Sephirah of Din, the harsh justice and lawfulness with Chesed, the Sephirah which channels the unending love and grace of the Creator.
I once had a revelation which told me that the gate of Chesed has been closed, because only law and justice govern this world. I was also told that we have to go through Rachamim, through love and mercy in order to open that gate.
Back to Genesis.
Creation for us has, however, an additional meaning, that of manifestation, realization. As long as everything is in the potential, unmanifest state, everything is possible. Only after manifestation has occurred and one possibility has become actualized, has ‘creation’ as we know it taken place. Only then can we perceive it as reality. It is very interesting to note that the theory of quantum mechanics claims exactly that. Without us as observers all would stay in the realm of the potential. In order to enable ourselves to perceive anything, we force the basic elements of the universe, the photons and the subatomic particles, to make one of many possible choices.[xxiv] Physicists call that the collapse of a wave function. So another set of dualities is created: the manifest versus the unmanifest, the realized versus the potential. And we are confronted again with the mirror image Elohim Mi hu lo. This duality is, furthermore, one which we find in our daily lives: for a word to be spoken, we need silence; for a thought to be written down, we need an empty page. Both silence and the empty page have the potential to become everything. Therefore, nothing contains everything.
[vii] Ockham, William of, 1285-1345, Franciscan philosopher and theologist, a later scholastic, who invented the school of Nominalism. The central thesis of his teachings was, that we have to cut off everything which is not necessary before reaching the crux of a matter.
[xiii] The term â€žnothing has the same meaning, both in the Kabbalah and in modern physics; it means exactly what it says: Something (or place), where nothing exists. The Kabbalah calls it â€žAjn. For us, the â€žstate of a nothing, where there is neither time nor space, is unconceivable, but out of this nothing, everything develops.
[xiv] The Zohar (Hebrew: “Splendor, radiance”) is widely considered the most important work of Kabbalah, the Jewish mysticism. It is a mystical commentary on the Torah (five books of Moses), written in medieval Aramaic and medieval Hebrew. It contains a mystical discussion of the nature of God, the origin and structure of the universe, the nature of souls, sin, redemption, good and evil, and related topics.
The Zohar is not one book, but a group of books. These books include scriptural interpretations as well as material on theosophic theology, mythical cosmogony, mystical psychology, and what some would call anthropology.
[xv] Schroeder, op. cit. â€žWhat’s exciting about the last few years in cosmology, is we now have quantified the data to know the relationship of the â€žview of time from the beginning relative to the â€žview of time today. It’s not science-fiction any longer â€¦ The general relationship between time near the beginning and time today is a million million. That’s a One with 12 zeros after it. So, when a view from the beginning looking forward says: I’m sending you a pulse every second, would we see it every second? No, we’d see it every million million seconds, because that’s the stretching effect of the expansion of the universe . – and of time. When the Torah speaks of six days, how would we see these six days? As six days? No, because the Torah’s perspective is from the beginning looking forwards. For us, we would see it as 6 000 000 000 000 days. The Torah speaks of days. Divide this number by 365 and it comes out to be 16 billion years our estimate of the age of the universe.
Eli Lasch Bio:
Born in Germany in 1929, Dr. Lasch fled with his family to Palestine in 1936. Following his medical training in Switzerland, Israel and the USA, where he specialized in pediatrics and public health, he spent three years in West Africa developing systems of child care where none had previously existed. After his return home he founded and directed a pediatric hospital for the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip, while functioning simultaneously as Director General of the local health services.
Dr. Lasch has taught in many medical schools and has published over eighty papers in medical journals. He is a fellow of the Royal Society for Tropical Medicine, as well as of many other professional organizations and was once nominated for the prestigious Lasker Award (called the American Nobel Prize).
In 1984, Dr. Lasch realized that he had fulfilled most of his goals and started looking for new challenges. After a series of spiritual revelations, he left behind a thriving medical and academic career and went to stay with the Findhorn Community in Scotland. Here, during long periods of meditation and reflection, he was given insights into the hidden meaning of the Bible. This resulted in his first book about the Bible which is meanwhile out of print.
Back in Israel, Dr. Lasch started on a spiritual pathway which combined teaching of kabbalah, reincarnation therapy and spiritual healing. At the same time, he continued to develop his contact with the medical profession of Gaza. This included many visits of Arab physicians to his home. After the outbreak of the Intifada in 1987, Dr. Lasch found himself caught between the two fronts and decided to return to his country of birth. He settled in Berlin and developed a highly successful center for spiritual healing. His numerous appearances on TV and in the print media helped to advance the state of spiritual healing in Germany. During that time, he published two further books both dealing with different aspects of spiritual healing.
After reaching the age of 70, Dr. Lasch retired a second time. He recently published a book about his experiences in Gaza and re-wrote a new exegesis of the Bible.